By: Sabrina Lin
When it comes to university, money is constantly on everyone’s mind.Tuition fees represent a real financial burden for most students at post-secondary institutions like McMaster.
Although the Student Financial Aid & Scholarships office offers relief for this financial strain, recent statistics indicate that only a small percentage of the student population is taking advantage of these pertinent financial resources.
“In the 2015-2016 school year, more than 8,000 students applied for university in-course aid and scholarships using the online aid application,” said Leanne Ruiz, Assistant Registrar of the SFAS. For a school with 22,600 full-time undergraduate students, this represents just over 35 percent of the student population.
While 13,800 students did apply for the Ontario Student Assistance Program in the same year, the question that arises concerns the accessibility of McMaster-specific financial aid and scholarships to students on campus.
“I did look for financial aid and scholarships when I first came to Mac,” said Shaya Zhang, a second-year Life Sciences student. “Unfortunately, there was very little advertisement about it around the school, so it was a bit difficult to find.”
“I don’t believe they advertise enough. I only heard about financial aid through a post on the McMaster 2020 Facebook page, and individual posts easily get lost due to the volume of new posts every day,” said Kathryn Chen, a first-year student in the Health Sciences program.
“Although I saw a link for ‘Financial Aid’ on Mosaic, I don’t remember receiving any advertisements directly from the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. I feel they should advertise more in order to make this money more accessible for students who need and deserve it.”
In the SFAS office, Ruiz maintains that there are advertisements informing students of her office’s work.
“We recently did a whole campaign to educate students about the online aid application and openings for a variety of different awards,” she said. “We were down in the student centre right outside Starbucks on Oct. 17 and helped students complete their online aid profile on Mosaic.”
In addition, Ruiz says that the SFAS office sends out e-cards to students, puts notices on the Mosaic portal, uses the MBA bulletin for graduate students, and places advertisements on TV monitors around campus.
“I think it’s the students’ responsibility to look for this kind of stuff, but at the same time, it also should be a little bit more advertised,” said second-year Engineering student Kelly Ng. Like many others, she eventually found the financial resources she sought after searching online and applying through Mosaic.
“I think students need to make sure that they’re educated about their finances. Although they’re coming to school mainly for the academics, they need to try to be resourceful and learn to take care of their finances,” said Ruiz. “I encourage everyone to do the online aid application and do the OSAP. You may not be needing a loan, but you can waive the loan and only get grants.”
In the 2015/2016 school year, McMaster University provided students with a total of $2.4 million in in-course and graduand scholarships.